Photograph by Curtis Cartier
He shoots, he scores: Kevin Kelley sinks another one at the Black Mouse Disc Golf Course in Felton, where he's helping organize the first Felton Freeze Tournament this Saturday.
Disc golf scores in Santa Cruz County this week with a new course and a new tournament.
By Curtis Cartier
The arm cocks back slowly. The eyes squint into slivers. Sweat beads on the forehead. And then, snapping out like a whip, the arm extends! And out flies ... a Frisbee.
Thousands of disc golfers and fans spend their time tossing saucers into metal baskets at courses around the country and the world. A game that combines the preppie sport of golf with the hippie weapon of choice, disc golf is flying high on the Central Coast. And now, thanks to some dedicated golfers and organizers, the crowded DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course has some competition in Santa Cruz County. The brand-new Pinto Lake Championship Disc Golf Course is set to open in Watsonville March 1. And the Black Mouse Disc Golf Course, with its tall redwoods and tricky fairway shots, is going mainstream with the first annual Felton Freeze Tournament Feb. 28.
The rules of disc golf are nearly identical to the rules of "ball golf." Players "tee off" at the start of each hole, throwing a disc down-course toward a target, which is usually a metal basket made of chains but can simply be a tree or any other object. Players use drivers, midrange discs and putters, which vary in weight, circumference and edge sharpness.
One of the best places in the world to play is DeLaveaga. The mammoth 27-hole course, located in the heart of Santa Cruz, is notoriously difficult and, each spring, plays host to the annual "Steady" Ed Memorial Masters Cup Tournament, which sees the country's best players compete. But it's crowded, and golfers have been begging for an alternative.
Enter Tom Schot. Some people build model cars or airplanes; Schot builds disc golf courses. He built the DeLaveaga course 25 years ago, then the Black Mouse course six years ago. For the last year and a half he's been clearing poison oak, hauling out bushes and installing tee boxes and baskets at Pinto Lake County Park for Watsonville's new course. The energetic 64-year-old former furniture seller and Grand Master World Champion talks excitedly about each hole of the course, pointing out good shots and pausing occasionally to pick a stray log off the path.
"You should have seen this place when I started," he says. "Poison oak as far as you could see. This is going to be such a great thing for this town. These kids are dying to get out here."
Chava Borrego, who's out with four of his friends tossing discs on a beautiful afternoon, agrees. "We need something to do in Watsonville," he says. "In Santa Cruz, you've got the Boardwalk and the Catalyst and the beach and stuff. Having a disc golf course gives us something to get together for."
In Felton, Kevin Kelley, T.J. Goodwin and Del Pikles are leading the charge in bringing the Black Mouse Disc Golf Course out of the underground and into the spotlight. The Black Mouse Disc Golf Club is racking up the members and the Felton Freeze tournament is shaping into a who's-who of local talent.
After teeing off for the first shot, the crew is tromping around in the damp leaves and green ferns of the course, which gets its name from the Black Mouse running trail used by the San Lorenzo High cross-country team. With his eyes never leaving the basket, Kelley plucks his driver off the fairway and pulls out his putter to shoot for birdie.
"This game is really just about getting friends together and getting outside," says Kelley before sinking yet another shot under par. "I win some money in tournaments sometimes, but even if I lose, if I'm out there playing I'm happy."
Whoever signs up for the Felton Freeze tournament is likely to be happy that Nate Doss, the current PDGA United States Disc Golf Champion and Santa Cruz native, won't be able to enter the competition because of a prior commitment. Regardless, the pro Frisbee chucker says he's thrilled to see new courses opening and new clubs forming.
"I think Santa Cruz has the kind of community that can get behind a sport like disc golf," says Doss who collected more than $27,000 in prize money competing around the world last year. "I think the new courses are a gigantic step for players who want some other options for courses. I think you'll see this sport get much bigger in the coming years."
THE FELTON FREEZE flies Saturday, Feb. 28, at Black Mouse Disc Golf Course, in the woods west of San Lorenzo Valley Middle School, 7179 Hacienda Way, Felton. For info call 831.588.9918. THE PINTO LAKE DISC GOLF COURSE is at Pinto Lake County Park, 757 Green Valley Road, Watsonville.
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